The reason why we wait to plant pumpkins until now is because if planted earlier they will be ready LONG before Halloween! The trick is to look at the days to maturity listed on the seed packet then using a calendar, count back from Halloween. Depending on the variety they take 90-120 days to mature, so at the most, 3 months from Halloween is the end of June! I like to add a few weeks just for crop failure or slow starting, which means the time is now!
If you have already planted them, then don’t stress. Pumpkins can last a very long time if taken care of. Once they are ready, cut them from the vine, clean them off with a dry brush or cloth the keep inside in a cool place out of direct sunlight. As long as they don’t get wet or the skin isn’t broken they will last. However once they get wet or the skin is broken they begin to rot, quickly!
So what kind should you plant?
If you are planning on baking them to make your own pumpkin for recipes then you want to pick the Pie pumpkins or any of the French varieties like Cinderella, Musque de Provence, etc. For carving look for Jack-O-Lantern, Lumina (white!) or Connecticut field. Big Max and Atlantic Giant are the ones to grow for giant pumpkins but they can also be carved. Then of course there are the little ones for decoration or little hands such as Jack Be Little.
Don’t forget about Gourds and Winter Squash too. These can also be planted now with grown the same way. I like to grow Winter Squashes like Blue Hubbard, Lakota, Sweet Dumpling and more because they are great ornamentals for the fall season but can also be cooked to eat! Anytime I can grow something with multiple uses, especially food, I do!
How to plant
Pumpkins are relatively easy but need space. If you are limited on space you can consider growing them on a substantial trellis, just be ready to provide extra support like slings for the heavy fruit.
1. Choose a sunny spot that receives at least 6 hours of sun per day. Dig a hole up to 2′ wide and deep. In this hole you want to add Harvest Supreme until almost full. Next add 2 cups of Gardner & Bloome Tomato, Vegetable and Herb fertilizer then fill in the hole with the original soil until full and mix thoroughly.
2. Plant Pumpkin seeds 2 per hole and you can plant up to 3 holes in this prepared soil to create a “hill”. They don’t have to grow on a hill or mound, this is just what they are called. Some climates or areas with poor draining soil could mound the soil up a bit but in our area and climate, this is generally not needed. Make sure to plant the seeds deep enough, refer to the package for recommended seed deep. Incorrect seed depth is often to blame for poor germination.
3. Now top the prepared and planted soil with 1/2″ of worm castings and water thoroughly. I like to try to keep the area sunken a tad (it will settle too) then build a nice berm around it to focus the water.
How to grow
Watering: Pumpkin plants are tough but the healthiest plants should not be stressed too much. Keep the soil moist until the seeds germinate and for the first few weeks after. Then only water when needed. Keep in mind that on hot days the leaves will be wilted in the afternoon, if they are still wilting in the evening or next morning then they actually need water. You will need to water more often than your regular watering days. Reserving water from the shower or bath while you are waiting for the water to warm up will be helpful.
Fertilize every 2 months with Gardner & Bloome Tomato, Vegetable and Herb fertilizer and top off with worm castings.
Regularly watch for insects. Most insects like aphids, spidermites, etc can be taken care of with Monterey Take Down. For squash bugs you will need to use Diatomaceous Earth or other methods. Read more about them here.
What varieties will you grow? Let me know in the comments!